BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Nobody wants to think of children being placed in dangerous situations however in 2015, there were 181 hundred child fatalities in alcohol-impaired motor vehicles nationwide.
New Mexico’s driving while intoxicated law has no provision for child endangerment, however, a drunk driver can face felony abuse of a child charges for having a minor in their vehicle at the time of their arrest – “knowingly, intentionally or negligently, and without justifiable cause (to cause or permit) a child to be placed in a situation that may endanger the child’s life or health”.
So while DWIs don’t become a felony until a fourth offense, getting that first DWI with a child in the car can result in a much more serious situation. If someone is found guilty of a felony child abuse offense, the sentence is at least three years in prison but if a child is injured or dies, the minimum prison sentence is 18 years.
Drivers are considered to be alcohol-impaired when their blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) are .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher. Thus, any fatal crash involving a driver with a BAC of .08 g/dL or higher is considered to be an alcohol-impaired-driving crash.
According to the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2015 of the 1,132 children killed in traffic crashes, 181 children (16%) were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. Of these 181 deaths:
- 92 children (51%) were passengers of vehicles with alcohol-impaired-drivers. Of these 92 children killed, restraint use was known for 85, of whom 41 (48%) were unrestrained;
- 59 children (33%) were passengers of other vehicles in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. Of these 59 children killed, restraint use was known for 52, of whom 13 (25%) were unrestrained;
- 29 children (16%) were nonoccupants killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes; and
- 1 child (<1%) was an alcohol-impaired driver-killed.
In 2018, four people were arrested in Los Alamos for driving while intoxicated with a child or children in their vehicle.
April 27, 2018, Los Alamos Police Department responded to a local gas station on a report of an intoxicated man who had allegedly become verbally aggressive and refused to leave. When Officer Emmanuel Rodriguez arrived, the man, later identified as Kevin Herring, 41 of Los Alamos had left the gas station in his vehicle and parked with the engine running on the street nearby. When Rodriguez approached the vehicle, his report indicates that he could smell a strong odor of alcoholic beverage coming from within the vehicle and observed that Herring was slurring his words.
According to Los Alamos Magistrate Court documents, Herring had a two-year old child in a car seat in the center of the rear seat of the vehicle. Rodriguez asked Herring him to exit the vehicle. When asked how much he had had to drink. Herring reportedly responded, “Not enough”. The report states that he fumbled while taking out his wallet and dropped it twice.
As Rodriguez conducted field sobriety tests, his report reflects Herring was uncooperative, got irate, started yelling, then began to walk aggressively towards Rodriguez while raising his hands. Rodriguez placed him in handcuffs. CYFD was contacted but officers located the child’s grandparents who came to pick the child up. The report states Herring was taken to Los Alamos Medical center for a blood draw and that as he left the facility he became irate and was yelling.
On Dec. 14, 2018, Herring waived his preliminary hearing and was bound over to First Judicial District Court on charges of abuse of a child and driving under the influence. No date has been set yet for his arraignment.
Jayston Ray Platero, 35, of Los Alamos was charged June 12 with two counts of child abuse, driving under the influence and driving on a revoked or suspended license.
LAPD Cpl. Gabriel Nieto was dispatched to the customer service desk at Smith’s Marketplace in response to an intoxicated male accompanied by two children. Nieto attempted to find the man and eventually saw someone fitting the description getting into a vehicle which Cpl. Robert Larsen reported had pulled in to the Smith’s gas station.
According to Magistrate Court documents, Nieto spoke to a woman in the front passenger seat of the vehicle who said Platero had consumed more than 12 miniature bottles of alcohol throughout the day with the last shot an hour earlier. Platero allegedly told Larsen he had four miniatures two hours before his contact with police.
Platero agreed to perform a series of standard field sobriety tests and based on his performance, Nieto placed him under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Two later breath tests each yielded results of .15 breath alcohol concentration. There is a bench warrant currently in effect for Platero for failure to report to pretrial probation.
Heather M. Stanfield, 43, of Los Alamos was arrested Aug. 18, 2018. LAPD officers responded to a report that Stanfield had left a residence on East Jemez Road with children in her vehicle and that she had been drinking alcohol. When police officers made contact with Stanfield, there were two children in her vehicle and a report filed by Cpl. Dominica Perez said there was a strong odor of alcohol. Stanfield allegedly admitted she had been drinking but insisted she was not drunk.
Following issues with her field sobriety test and after officers obtained a PBT reading of .16, Stanfield was charged with driving while intoxicated and abuse of a child. Stanfield was bound over Dec. 24, 2018, to District Court where she is expected to be arraigned sometime this month.
In the final such case for 2018, Anthony Nez was arrested following a Dec. 13, 2018 vehicle accident on Rendija Canyon Road where a vehicle had crashed off the side of the road and struck a boulder. When LAPD officers arrived, Nez was sitting on a rock near the roadway.
Nez told Cpl. Jaime Gonzales he had been out looking for game and while driving back, his truck began to slide and that he had panicked and hit the brakes causing the vehicle to slide off the road. Magistrate Court documents indicate that Gonzales could smell a strong odor of alcohol from Nez’s breath, that his eyes were bloodshot and red, and that his speech was slurred.
Nez allegedly admitted to having had “a couple of shots of Yukon Jack” an hour earlier and that he was slightly buzzed. At one point he alleged his passenger had been driving but that he had opted to take the blame. Due to clues and observations made by Gonzales while administering field sobriety tests, Nez was taken to the Los Alamos Detention Center where Court Documents indicate he blew two blood alcohol tests of .14.
Nez is charged with driving while intoxicated, three counts of abuse of a child, careless driving and failure to use a seat belt. Judge Mateo S. Page, filling in for Judge Pat Casados, released Nez on conditions of release which included an unsecured bond of $5,000 and obtaining an alcohol detection device within 48 hours of his release. A status hearing has been set for Jan. 18 in Magistrate Court.
Watch for the outcome of these cases in the Los Alamos Reporter.